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State funeral for Turkey's former leader Demirel

AFP , Friday 19 Jun 2015
Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L), former President Abdullah Gul (R) and President Tayyip Erdogan (front 2nd R) attend the funeral ceremony of former President Suleyman Demirel in Ankara, Turkey June 19, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Turkey paid homage Friday to former president and prime minister Suleyman Demirel, with a state funeral for a national political giant who died this week aged 90.

Demirel's coffin was placed in front of the parliament building where dignitaries including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu paid their respects.

Escorted by the presidential guard the coffin was then paraded through the streets of Ankara to the Kocatepe mosque for a funeral ceremony.

A moderate conservative, but overall a pragmatist, Demirel served as prime minister on repeated occasions in the 1960s and 1970s and then again one final time in the 1990s before serving as head of state from 1993 to 2000.

His heyday was during one of the most chaotic periods of modern Turkish history when governments changed sometimes annually under the shadow of the powerful military, and the country was beset by daily street violence and an economic slump.

In all, he was prime minister of seven different governments, serving five separate stints in the post.

He died on Wednesday of heart failure resulting from a severe respiratory tract infection, the official Anatolia news agency said.

Nicknamed "Coban Sulu" (Suleyman the Shepherd), Demirel was known for his earthy turns of phrase and folksy wisdom that showed up his provincial roots in the southern Isparta region.

Critics accused him of being a political chameleon, happy to make common cause with the far right on occasion but also with the Islamists led by Necmettin Erbakan, the father of political Islam in Turkey.

He will be buried on Saturday in his native Isparta.

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